Like most children, one of the things that we are ALWAYS working on with Colin is his behavior. It is always a work in progress for us because how Colin reacts to different things can change from day to day and how we can handle particular behaviors also changes. It can be difficult at times because there really are no significant rewards that we can use that motivate him (reward charts, stickers, even toys) because he is pretty simple in terms of what he likes. What might work for us one day might not work the next. What we find to be the most consistent reward that works is praise; Colin really likes to be praised by clapping, cheering, high-fives, etc. for what he has done correctly and that seems to be the biggest motivator for him of all.
Through the years, we have found that a lot of the reasons for many of Colin's behaviors has to do with his progressing communication skills. We have found that because he can not adequately express what he likes and doesn't like at times, he resorts to something more physical to handle a situation. For example, one of the common behaviors we dealt with both at school at home was Colin being unable to explain to someone when he doesn't like them in his personal space (on the bus, circle time, etc.). If someone would get too close or touch him (even in a playful manner) he would react by pushing, swatting, poking, etc. Fortunately, his physical behaviors never intend to harm someone else (his teacher would let us know when this would happen at school) and when analyzing situations that have arisen, we can understand why he has done some of the things that he has done. We know that this doesn't make it right, but then we can use these situations as teaching tools to hopefully prevent them in the future.
We also find that another source of Colin's behaviors is often the fact that he is a very typical toddler boy who likes to be silly and goofy or do what he has seen other kids/adults do. Unfortunately (referencing the previous paragraph), sometimes the pushing, poking, swatting are things that WE have done in a playful manner with him and then he has repeated these behaviors being silly in situations where other kids may not like it or understand why HE is doing it. Chris and I have to be really careful in the ways in which we play with Colin because he observes and then repeats. For example, one day a month or so ago, Colin and I were playing around the house and I put my hands/thumbs on my face and made the silly face you see Colin making in the next picture antagonizing him in a way to show that he couldn't catch me. Colin has now taken that behavior and uses it in situations that are not always appropriate. For example, if we ask Colin to "stop" because he is walking somewhere dangerous, where he shouldn't be, or simply away from us he will turn and make this silly face and then run on purpose. We KNOW he isn't running to strictly get away from us, but has learned (from me) that this silly face is a way to antagonize someone and then run to be silly. Another example of this is when Chris has poked Colin playfully and then we find that Colin has taken this behavior and done it to someone else when it is not appropriate.
We find that our biggest challenges with Colin's behavior arise during his non-preferred activities (using the potty, academics he doesn't particularly like, playing with a toy/game that we want him to, centers at school that he isn't interested in, transitioning to a new activity when he isn't ready, etc.). This is something we have dealt with both at home at school pretty consistently and the one behavior that is always causing us to "reinvent the wheel".
Sometimes, you can liken these behaviors to being "stubborn" but we know it's mostly just because it's simply something he doesn't want to do so he isn't going to. At school, they would see this behavior arising during transitions to individual therapies (being pulled out of a preferred classroom activity to leave the room and go to a therapy) and we would be in constant communication with the therapists to try and find ways to combat this. One way we handled this was with speech therapy, we switched two of his sessions to a group therapy because they found that it helped for Colin to leave the room with other students so that he was not always the only one. The physical therapist would also use other students as a motivator because she would praise the kids that were doing what she would ask and then when Colin realized he wanted the same praise, he would often complete the task asked of him.
During his IEP meetings at the end of the year this year, we tried to get it so that some of his therapies were "push-ins" where the therapist would go into the classroom during his scheduled time. We have read and listened to others' experiences with this where the therapist would work with the student during a classroom activity that appropriately fit the therapist's area of expertise. Right now, the school is telling us it can't be done, but I have talked to administrators and therapists in other districts who say it can be but it does take collaborative planning on the teachers and therapists part. We know this isn't always easy but I am going to keep that idea on the backburner if we start seeing these behaviors again.
Since a lot of Colin's preschool education was center-based, we found that sometimes Colin's behaviors were due to not wanting to transition to the next center from one that he was currently enjoying. One method we learned from Colin's teacher is positive reinforcement for all of the students who do listen and follow the directions and then a lot of the times, Colin will follow suit because he wants the same praise as well. I am able to use this a lot at home with Kailey (as long as she is cooperating) successfully because I will exaggerate the praise for Kailey and then Colin will comply because he wants the same from me as well.
Day to day I can honestly say that overall, Colin's behaviors are pretty good but I would attribute it to the work that Chris and I have to do on a daily basis to make sure they ARE pretty good. Many days I can sit down at the end of the day and say to myself that overall the day went pretty well (even though it was exhausting). However, there a lot of times that I wish things were a little easier as I watch my friends of "typical" kids deal with more common toddler behaviors. While every parent has to deal with behaviors all day long, there are aspects of Colin's behaviors that are more challenging and require us to stay on top of him all day long teaching him the right and wrong ways to handle situations. While Kailey has some of her own challenging behaviors, we can often handle things with her in ways that are not as time consuming as they are with Colin. For example, something as simple as asking Kailey to stop doing something she isn't supposed to be we can use the common phrase "on the count of 3, if you don't stop/do what I ask then you will go in time out" and 99% of the time she will comply before we hit 3. This DOESN'T work with Colin and we have to use different methods to get him to comply. An example of this is on the beach. Colin will often decide that he wants to walk to the back of the beach, go down by the water, etc. We have been working on this for a long time in teaching him that it's not ok to just walk away. There are many days I have to get him and bring him back and remind him of this over and over again. However, there are also many days that if I ask him to stop and come back to wait for us, he will quickly comply.
One of the things we have always had to do with Colin is just remain consistent. If we ask him to pick something up and he won't, we might have to ask numerous times until he follows through and if he still doesn't, then we may have to hold his hand, ask again, and lead him to the area in which we want him to complete the task. This can be really frustrating (especially when he flops) but we also don't want to give up on it and have him think he "won".
It is really easy for me to keep my patience when I remind myself why he has some of the behaviors he does, but that's not to say that I DON'T lose my patience a lot of days as well. It can be really frustrating/exhausting when you have to do the same things over and over again but that's just the way that Colin learns.
In selecting an inclusive Kindergarten class for Colin, we are hoping that he will see what "typical" behaviors look like in the classroom. One thing we explained in that last IEP meeting that did not get off to a good start was that Colin does really well once he is in a routine. When things are consistent and he knows what to expect, then we often see a lot of the negative behaviors disappear. HE gets frustrated when things don't go the way he expects them to and it's quite understandable.
We see LOTS of good behaviors from Colin in how he handles many situations, how he plays with his sister or us, when he is a good listener and follows through with tasks asked of him.
We know that for Colin, it just takes him longer to learn things (including how to behave) so we will keep pushing through and showing him what we expect.
We ARE really proud of Colin because he is a really sweet, polite, loving little boy who has really good manners. We know that he learns best by observing so we will continue to put him in situations in which he is able to observe those correct behaviors we expect of him.
One example of this is something Colin has picked up on our walks at night lately. Chris has always acknowledged passing cars with a wave just to be friendly (especially when we are walking in our own neighborhood) and we now notice that when a car is coming and we have both kids "freeze" and move to the side of the road, Colin will also give a little wave as the car passes by.
ANYTHING is possible when given the right tools...